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When to See a Doctor for a Non-Healing Leg Wound

When to See a Doctor for a Non-Healing Leg Wound

Apr 26, 2024 | Blog

Leg wounds can be tricky as the legs and feet are a sensitive part of the body that bears a significant amount of the body’s weight. These factors makes them susceptible to repeated trauma and slow or delayed healing. The lower parts of our legs have a more limited blood supply compared to other parts of the body and this are can be even more compromised in individuals with any vascular condition leading to chronic wounds.

When there is delayed healing in any leg wound, it gives room for infection to set in. These infections further prolong healing and also become systemic and affect other parts of the body. For example, the infections can in turn lead to ulceration and loss of functionality, and in more dire cases, amputation.

As one of the leading advanced cardiac and vascular centers, CACVI’s experts are adept and skilled in managing and treating leg wounds. We also offer specialized peripheral procedures that address underlying issues and promote healing. For more information, reach out to us for a free consultation.

In this blog, we will talk about the causes behind the delayed healing of leg wounds and the risks associated with it.

The Natural Course of Wound Healing

The Natural Course of Wound Healing

The healing process of a wound varies based on the severity of the wound and health factors in the individual or patient. When a wound occurs, hemostasis happens immediately after an injury. The body initiates blood clotting to stop bleeding. Then, there is the inflammation stage which involves redness, swelling, and pain. This takes 1 to 3 days as white blood cells swarm the area to prevent infection. 

From there, the wound gets to the proliferation stage where the wound begins to be rebuilt with new tissues. This varies between 4 days to 3 weeks. This final stage is the maturation phase where the new tissue slowly gains strength and flexibility. Depending on the individual, it could be between 3 weeks to over a year. 

When a leg wound is healing, you will notice a reduction in redness and swelling and a decrease in pain. There will also be the formation of new tissue that may initially appear red or pink. In addition, there would be scar formation and gradual fading over time.

Factors that can Affect Wound Healing

Factors like age, nutrition, circulation, infection, and smoking can affect the wound healing process. For example, poor nutrition, especially deficiencies in vitamins and proteins can impair healing.

Additionally, conditions like peripheral artery disease, chronic venous insufficiency, and varicose veins can reduce blood flow which is necessary for healing. Similar to them, smoking also impairs blood flow, which hinders wound healing. Furthermore, as one ages, the healing process slows down. Also, if an infected wound is left untreated, it can become a non-healing wound. 

Types of Leg Wounds

Types of Leg Wounds

Understandably, it is easy to classify all injuries on the leg as leg wounds. However, they differ in severity and type and have their unique characteristics and healing needs. One common form of leg wounds would be cuts and lacerations. Cuts are clean breaks in the skin. On the other hand, lacerations are more jagged and irregular. Both can occur from accidents with sharp objects and may bleed heavily. If deep enough, they might damage underlying blood vessels, nerves, or muscles, impacting the wound healing process.

Abrasions are also types of leg wounds that occur when the skin is scraped off. It could be due to a fall or rubbing against a rough surface. These wounds are generally superficial but can be painful because they expose nerve endings. Also, we have puncture wounds that occur when things penetrate the skin. They may appear small but can be deep, affecting deeper tissues and potentially introducing bacteria deep into the body.

In addition, we also have surgical incisions. These are cuts made through the skin and other tissues during medical procedures. They are generally clean and precisely made to promote healing. 

Warning Signs: Leg Wound Not Healing

Warning Signs: Leg Wound Not Healing

When dealing with leg wounds, it is important to monitor the healing process closely. This helps to identify any signs of complications early. When a leg wound is not healing properly, it could be an indication of chronic wounds, infection, or other underlying health issues. 

Typically, a normal wound healing process should progress through the natural stages of hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation and maturation. If a wound does not move through these stages or remains in one stage for longer than expected, it may be considered a non-healing or chronic wound. Also, if a patient has conditions such as peripheral artery disease, diabetes, or chronic venous insufficiency, they can slow down this process significantly.

If you experience increasing pain, swelling, or redness in your leg wound, it is an indication of an infection or poor circulation and would affect the wound-healing process. Yes, some inflammation can be normal in the early stages of healing. However, when it becomes persistent, it is a warning sign.

Furthermore, if you notice a foul or unusual odor from the wound, it can be a sign of bacterial infection or necrotic tissue within the wound.  Both conditions are serious and require immediate medical attention to prevent further complications like sepsis or limb loss. Also, if there is the presence of pus or an abnormal discharge, it indicates an infection. The immune system responds to infection by sending white blood cells to the area to fight off bacteria. Thus, resulting in pus. 

In addition, if you develop a fever or start feeling generally unwell, it suggests that the infection from the wound might be spreading. You will need to urgently reach out to a healthcare professional to manage the infection and support the body’s natural healing process.

Complications of Non-Healing Leg Wounds

Complications of Non-Healing Leg Wounds

Non-healing leg wounds, such as venous leg ulcers, can lead to several serious complications if not properly managed. One such complication would be an infection, including cellulitis. Cellulitis is a painful bacterial infection of the skin and the tissues beneath. If left untreated, the infection spreads to the lymph nodes and bloodstream. Therefore, becoming a life-threatening situation. 

Chronic wounds such as leg ulcers are also complications that can arise from non-healing leg wounds. An example of such chronic leg ulcers would be venous ulcers. They occur from poor blood circulation that occurs due to chronic venous insufficiency. Consulting with a venous specialist would give a clearer picture of leg ulcers. However, some new treatments for leg ulcers include advanced skin grafts and innovative wound care technologies.

Certain types of leg wounds, especially those associated with varicose veins and poor blood flow, increase the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, usually in the legs. This can be life-threatening if the clot dislodges and travels to the lungs to cause a pulmonary embolism.

Non-healing wounds can lead to significant scarring, which may cause mobility issues due to the skin and underlying tissues losing their elasticity and strength. This can be particularly challenging for patients with peripheral artery disease or diabetic foot ulcers, where blood flow is already compromised, and healing is slow.

Chronic Non-healing Wounds

Chronic Non-healing Wounds

Chronic non-healing wounds are wounds that do not heal within the expected time frame. A wound is considered chronic if it fails to progress through the healing stages (hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and maturation) within a reasonable period, which is typically three months. Common examples include venous leg ulcers, pressure ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, and arterial ulcers.

Treating chronic non-healing wounds includes processes such as advanced wound care, infection control, advanced therapies and pain management. When the leg wound develops a four odor, increased pain, swelling, changes in color or size, etc., it is a warning sign. 

When to Contact a Doctor

If you notice any of the red flags we’ve talked about like increased pain, fever, foul odor, etc, you should contact a doctor immediately. Also, people with certain health conditions like diabetes and vascular disease should be particularly cautious about leg wounds.

A consultation for a leg wound generally starts with checking your medical history. After reviewing your medical history, the doctor will proceed to do a physical examination. You may also need to do a test such as blood work or imaging. Based on the evaluation, the doctor will outline a treatment plan.  At CACVI, we offer free consultations. Reach out to us today!

Preventative Measures and Care Tips

Preventative Measures and Care Tips

Basic wound care and hygiene start with gently cleaning the wound with mild soap and water to remove debris and contaminants. This also helps prevent infection. It is important to avoid using harsh chemicals like hydrogen as they can damage the skin. It also helps to use sterile bandages or dressings to cover the wound. 

Leg wounds should always be kept dry and covered to protect the wound from bacteria. By keeping the wound covered, it absorbs excess fluid, maintains a stable temperature, and supports the body’s natural healing process. When showering or in wet conditions, use a waterproof cover to keep the wound dry. On the other hand, wound healing can be promoted by eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated. 

Need a Leg Wound Diagnosis?

A leg wound that doesn’t go through the normal healing process can lead to several complications. In dire cases, it can lead to an amputation. You should be vigilant of any possible warning signs, for a leg wound not healing would show signs of infection, such as foul odor, etc. To ensure a healthy wound-healing process, you need to keep the wound clean and covered. You also need to maintain a balanced diet and ensure that your body stays hydrated. 

Individuals with conditions like diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or chronic venous insufficiency are particularly susceptible to complications from leg wounds. If you fall into this category or if you notice any signs of a wound not healing properly, you should seek professional advice. 

As one of the leading centers for advanced cardiac and vascular interventions in LA, we offer comprehensive evaluations like peripheral vascular disease evaluations. Don’t wait for complications to develop. Get a thorough evaluation of your condition today. Contact us now for a free consultation

CONTACT CACVI

If you were told you need an amputation, get a second opinion! We are board certified consultants in endovascular interventions committed to improving the quality of your life and the lives of those you love!

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